Managing Sleep Apnea with Dental Appliances - A Game-Changer!

Dental Designs Clinic Singapore
26 Jan, 2024

Imagine waking up multiple times in the middle of the night, desperately gasping for air as you realise you have momentarily lost the ability to breathe. Or maybe your partner constantly complains of your loud snoring throughout the full night's sleep. These are just some of the symptoms of sleep apnea. But what is it exactly and how do we manage it?

 

What is sleep apnea? How does it affect me?

Sleep apnea is a common, chronic condition that disrupts sleep by causing pauses or shallow breaths, leading to a transition from deep sleep to light sleep.

Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes, and may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. 

The both blood pressure and oxygen saturation in patients with sleep apnea may drop to dangerously low because blood oxygen levels, during sleep, causing hypoxemia. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day. Unsurprisingly, sleep apnea is also a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.

The most common type of central the obstructive sleep apnea diagnosed as in, Obstructive Sleep Apnea1 occurs when the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep, under air pressure therefore causing pauses in breathing and ultimately, to loud snoring.woman-sleeping

Do you have sleep apnea?

Most people who have sleep apnea do not know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member or bed partner might be the first to notice signs of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed as doctors usually do not detect the condition during routine office visits. Additionally, no blood tests can help diagnose the condition.

Whilst it is obstructive sleep apnea occurs more common in people who are overweight, it can affect anyone; even young children who have enlarged tonsils in their throats! Regardless of your body weight or age, a dentist can play a crucial role in evaluating oral health and addressing oral factors contributing to obstructing sleep apnea.

Poor quality sleep due to sleep apnea may cause other sleep disorders you to feel tired or unproductive. In severe cases, sleep apnea can cause involuntary micro-naps during the day which can be dangerous as it can occur anytime, and may even cause serious injuries especially while operating heavy machinery or when driving.

woman-headache

How does dental treatment affect sleep apnea?

Teeth grinding (bruxism) and sleep apnea are closely related, as they both involve abnormal muscle activity during the obstructive sleep apnea.

The position of natural teeth in your jaw, a constricted upper jaw, missing teeth, or crowded teeth can exacerbate sleep apnea in some individuals. In mild cases of sleep apnea or snoring, dental interventions may provide improvement in breathing problems.

Our dentists can evaluate your oral condition to determine if dental treatment2 is appropriate. Some success has been reported in patients with a narrow jaw or constricted jaw position that have undergone orthodontic treatment, or Invisalign, to align the teeth and dental expansion to increase the intra-oral volume space for the tongue. In certain cases with a backwards positioned lower jaw, orthodontic treatment may be able to change the bite and allow the mandible soft palate to come forward.

Read more about Invisalign treatment here. Our Invisalign dentist will be able to advise on whether your sleep apnea is likely to improve with Invisalign treatment.

 

What are the types of sleep apnea mouth guards available?

There are a few types of dental mouth guards which can be used to treat sleep apnea in mild to moderate cases. The two common types are tongue positioners and mandibular advancement devices (MAD) 

Tongue Positioners: They hold the tip of the tongue in a forward position, preventing it from falling back and obstructing the airway. They are often used if there are not enough teeth to hold a MAD. They can be uncomfortable as there is a strong suction on the tip of the tongue to hold it. 

Mandibular Advancement Devices (MAD): There are various types of MADs on the market. They work by moving the lower jaw forward and preventing it from moving back during sleep and obstructing the upper airway. An established brand for MADs would be SomnoDent by SomnoMed.

At Dental Designs Clinic, we provide various dental appliances and types of mandibular advancement dental devices to suit your family member's individual needs.

sleep-apnea-mouth-guards

What can I do to manage sleep apnea?

A referral to a sleep specialist or an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor for a diagnosis of sleep apnea is the gold standard as not all cases can be treated with dental intervention. A CPAP machine is still the most reliable method of treatment for sleep apnea. 

Recognising the symptoms and how is sleep apnea and seeking dental assessment is vital for understanding what can be done to address sleep apnea. So are you ready to improve your quality of healthy sleep because of central sleep apnea?

 

references

  1. Slowik JM, Sankari A, Collen JF. Obstructive Sleep Apnea. [Updated 2022 Dec 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459252/
  2. Quan SF, Schmidt-Nowara W. The Role of Dentists in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Consensus and Controversy. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017 Oct 15;13(10):1117-1119. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.6748. PMID: 28942761; PMCID: PMC5612624.